Stars Down at The Galaxy Theater

Lukas Rossi and Stars Down played a concert in Santa Ana at The Galaxy Theater recently, along with another one of my favorite bands – LA Guns – so of course I had to go! Who could resist? This was the first time I’d heard this particular line up of the band, and I loved the fact that they have two guitars now! Plus Lukas sounded as good as ever – he really is a huge talent!

I’m posting a few images from this concert as a teaser, but there are more in the slideshow…

Lukas Rossi and Stars Down at The Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana, California.

Lukas Rossi and Stars Down

Lukas Rossi and Stars Down at The Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana, California.

Stars Down at The Galaxy Theater // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down at The Galaxy Theater // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Lukas Rossi and Stars Down at The Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana, California

Lukas Rossi and Stars Down at The Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana, California.

Stars Down at The Galaxy Theater // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars DownStars Down at The Galaxy Theater // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down at The Galaxy Theater // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

This is just a selection of images – to see a slideshow with more from this concert, go to

Terri Nunn and Berlin in Thousand Oaks

As promised… images of Berlin, live in concert at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks!

Terri Nunn

Terri NunnBerlin

BerlinTerri Nunn


Terri NunnTerri Nunn

Terri Nunn

Terri Nunn and BerlinBerlin had a string of hits in the 1980s, including The Metro, Sex (I’m A…), Take My Breath Away – which was featured prominently in Top Gun – and my personal favorite, No More Words.

I first saw the band in concert two years ago – at Crash Mansion in downtown LA – and fell in love then. And even though it was a shorter set this time, and the production was less elaborate, the band sounded better. The Thousands Oaks Civic Plaza theater may not be the typical rock concert hall – the ushers are all senior citizens and dress up for events in matching uniforms – and the staff seems more used to producing Broadway shows, than hosting rock and pop stars. But what the hall lacks in rock cred, it makes up for in sound quality. I loved hearing Terri Nunn’s voice in that hall!

Berlin was the last act of the night, and they really were the perfect way to end the show. So many hits. So much passion and joy and emotion. It was just maybe, my favorite part of the night!

To see the slideshow from this concert, go to ROCKBANDLOUNGE.COM – the images of Berlin are at the very end – and they’re slightly larger than here!

80’s All-Star Party | Benefit Concert

Nick Richards 80's ConcertLast weekend some of the biggest artists of the ’80s got together for a benefit concert at the Fred Kavli Theatre in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Boys Don’t Cry, Terri Nunn & Berlin, Garry Beers from INXS, Fee Waybill from the Tubes, Martha Davis & The Motels, Roy Hay from Culture Club, and Deon Estus from Wham performed some of their biggest hits. Original MTV VJ Martha Quinn, DJ Richard Blade, and actress Jane Seymour hosted the event.

I initially heard about the concert because of the INXS connection – I have friends who hear about everything – and they pass it on! And seeing bassist Garry Beers onstage again was great. He was clearly having a good time, and is so much fun to shoot!

But that wasn’t the only highlight of the night for me! I absolutely loved seeing Berlin again – in fact, I’m saving those images for another post tomorrow – and they’re HOT! And I got introduced to a brand new band, made up of four fourteen-year-olds – more about them next week. And I got to shoot one of the sexiest men from the mid 1980’s – Nick Richards was (and still is) in a band called Boys Don’t Cry, and their big hit was called “I Wanna Be a Cowboy”, which peaked at #12 on the Hot 100 in 1986. The video featured Nick in a clawfoot bathtub – which I love – and he has the sexiest eyes.

I also loved meeting Martha Quinn for the first time, and meeting Richard Blade again – he was backstage occasionally during Rock Star: INXS, and he introduced INXS at The Greek in 2006, and hosted Rock Star: Supernova at Universal City Walk – so I’ve crossed paths with him quite a few times!

But perhaps the highlight of the night was when Fee Waybill of the Tubes came out to perform his biggest hit, “She’s a Beauty” and the crowd got excited – and Fee was clearly touched. It was great! Spontaneous joy from the crowd and real appreciation from the singer. Just very cool!

Boys Don't Cry

80's All-Stars PartyNick Richards

Garry Beers and Nick Richards

Martha QuinnBoys Don't Cry

Garry Beers

Fee Waybill

Garry BeersNick Richards

The MotelsGarry Beers

Garry Beers

And yes, I did sneak an awful lot of Garry Beers into this post – but there’s a reason for it! Even though I’ve seen INXS perform live over a dozen times, I’ve only shot the band live in concert once – way back in 2006 – and during the one and only time I shot them, I didn’t get very many images of Garry. Six members in a band, and only three songs to shoot, so not a lot of margin for error… and I accidently shortchanged Garry that night. So this was my chance to make up for that oversight – and I made the most of it!

To see the slideshow from this concert, go to ROCKBANDLOUNGE.COM – and yes, there are more images in it – and they’re bigger than here! Or, check out Facebook in the coming days for some backstage photos

Concert Photography: Catch Flash & Light Trails

A concert photographer I follow named Todd Owyoung made a post today referring to “catchflash” – I’ve never heard of it referred to in that way, but I definitely use it! I would bet that every concert photographer has taken advantage of it, at some point.

It’s when there are lots of fans with point-and-shoots flashing all around you, and you catch some of that flash in your own shots. The longer your exposure, the more likely you are to catch some of those neighboring flashes. Usually I shoot at 1/80th or faster at a concert, so the timing has to be perfect for it to work – the fan and I both have to press the shutter at the exact same millisecond – so rare, and definitely not expected, but not impossible.

For me, “catch flash” usually just provides a little extra light from the front – and if the band is heavily backlit, that can be a really nice thing once in a while. But I like it even better when the “catch flash” comes from a fan on the side, and gives me a bit of unexpected rim light.

Quietdrive at The Glass House // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Here’s an example from last year that shows not only the effects of that rogue flash, but also the flash itself! I sort of like the burst of white light as a compositional element, but I really like the rim lighting it provides on the guitarist! You can see the rest of that concert – Quietdrive at Pomona – it was good lighting overall, but getting a little extra rim light once in a while is a nice bonus – especially since I like a lot of variety.

But it doesn’t have to be an unexpected bonus – you can court “catch flash” – just by using a longer exposure. If your exposure is half a second or longer, and if the fans are going mad flashing, it’s very likely that you’ll pick up some of that flash activity – you might even get multiple flashes from different directions. It’s an iffy process, since you have zero control – you have no idea when those flashes will be fired, or how strong they will be, so you just have to shoot a lot, and hope that some magic happens!

Thinking about “catch flash” today reminded me of how I used to chase light trails…

In the mid-1990’s, right when I was starting out, there was a big trend in concert photography – mostly with grunge bands. You’d load a roll of 400 ISO B&W film, set your shutter to one or two seconds, and set your flash to maybe half-power? I played around a lot with the settings – there was no one right way – especially with a process this experimental. Then you’d hit the shutter right when the guitarist was whipping his guitar around, and you’d freeze that initial moment, and then get wonderful light trails from the guitar head and any other highlights during the remaining second or two that the shutter was open. It was frustrating at times – sometimes I’d get nothing worthwhile on an entire roll of 36 exposures – but when it almost worked, it bordered on magical.

I never totally mastered the whole grunge/flash/light trails process – and I tried! I used so many rolls of film trying… But I knew then and know now, how much chance comes into play with a process like this. It does take skill and knowledge – absolutely! But yeah, luck also enters into it, when you’re dealing with a moving subject! Part of what makes a good concert photographer is knowing the exact right moment to squeeze the shutter – the peak moment – it’s a gift and a skill and it’s necessary to get really fabulous concert shots. But no matter how good you are at anticipating peak moments, that still doesn’t guarantee that the second or two after that peak moment will be interesting, and provide interesting light trails. So yeah, a lot of luck, to get that one perfect shot.

It’s been a long time since the mid-1990’s – so maybe it’s time for me give it another try? One of the benefits of film over digital, is that it handles over-exposure better – and when you’re dealing with super-long exposures and trailing highlights, you need that margin. But, film was also limited to 36 exposure per roll, and consequently I typically shot fewer frames than I do now with digital – and with this process you definitely need to shoot a lot, that’s the only way to get the odds in your favor!

I think maybe I’m going to court a few light trails the next time I shoot a concert…

Lovehammers at The Key Club, West Hollywood

Lovehammers at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’m a little late blogging about this, but it’s only because I had so much fun, that I didn’t want it to end – and blogging is definitely an after-the-fact activity! A little over a week ago I went to a great show, spent loads of time with some great friends, shot all kinds of amazing images, ate some great food, and spent way too much money on parking in LA. Just a fabulous weekend!

But about that show, since it was definitely the high point of the weekend… It was Lovehammers – direct from Chicago – and more like a party than just a show, since it was their West Coast CD release for their latest work, Heavy Crown. There were a lot of fans that flew in from other parts of the country – including a whole bunch from Chicago – and that fed the party atmosphere. I met so many, it’s kind of a blur, but it was great to meet so many people face to face that have sent me sweet notes in the past about my images of the band. They love that band, no doubt about it, and by extension I get a lot of love, simply because I’ve shot that band. It’s great!

First up was soundcheck! The venue had sold VIP tickets that included a CD, a shirt, and a meet and greet after soundcheck, so quite a few of their fans got to experience it as well, and it was SO good! I always love soundcheck, since the emphasis is on the sound, not on the performance, and sometimes you get to see, or rather hear another side of a performer or band. It’s just different than the actual show – and that can mean lesser, or it can mean something totally different and wonderful – in this case, we got wonderful. And because I wasn’t shooting, I got to just enjoy the music and the sound. So I was already totally happy, and in love, when they broke out my latest favorite song, Neverfall. Now I didn’t expect to hear it live, I hoped, but was not expecting. They’ve done several shows since the new CD debuted, and I’ve read the reviews, and I knew they hadn’t done Neverfall live – so it was a BIG wonderful surprise when they started to play it. Honestly I screamed, like a 12-year-old fan girl! I could not have been happier and it totally lived up to my expectations. It wasn’t as slick as some of the other songs they did, but it more than made up for that in raw sexy power. If I had to pick one perfect moment from the entire weekend, it would be hearing that song, my favorite song, live, in my favorite city. Just perfect!

And there was another really fun moment during soundcheck that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it… There’s a line in one of their new songs, “Last night she was on fire…” and yeah, it’s a sexy line. Even just seeing it written it’s sexy, so imagine it in the middle of a really hot song, and well it’s even sexier! But at soundcheck there was this little pause, and a breathe, and it was the single sexiest thing I’ve ever heard or seen onstage. If you saw the show, you know it was great then, but during soundcheck it was mindblowingly sexy. I turned to my friend, and I couldn’t even verbalize how blown away I was. It was a really good moment!

And the show itself was amazing! But I’ll let my images tell the story there…. Check out the link at the end of this post, or click on the image above!

The next night Lovehammers hosted a listening party in Hollywood at Ink Kandy Tattoo – with discounts given if you got a LH tattoo – I didn’t participate in that aspect, but I had fun hanging out with a couple of friends that I don’t see nearly often enough. We also checked out a place I’d heard of, but never been to before, the Beauty Bar – which is totally cute, and kitchy, and fun.

The last time I’d seen the Lovehammers live was at Hammerfest in Chicago in March 2008, so it had been way too long, and I was really ready to hear the new material – and it seriously exceeded my expectations! What can be better than a really great band, in your favorite city, on a really HOT summer night?

So check out my slideshow, and if you get the chance, go see Lovehammers live!

Jason Castro at the SLS Hotel, in Beverly Hills

I got invited to an industry showcase in Los Angeles this week – Jason Castro, who was on American Idol in 2008, and is now signed to Atlantic Records, was at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. I’d never heard his music before, but the invitation came from someone who used to work with one of the singers on Rock Star, and she’s now working with Jason – so I jumped at the chance to go! If she believes in him, then he has to be good – right? And I’d been hearing about the SLS Hotel a lot lately – Ryan Star showcased there just last month – and a photographer I know did a session there in July that was beautiful – so I was excited to see the hotel as well.

The SLS is really as fabulous as I’d heard it was. I met Arlene Catherine there, and we spent quite a bit of time exploring and enjoying the chandeliers dipped in plastic, glass deer heads lit from within, lettuce head floral arrangements, orange leather couches, monkeys as fine art, mirrors everywhere, and private dining rooms done in all white or all black. Everywhere you look it’s fabulous and funky and modern and fun – and it’s less than a year old, so it still has that fresh new vibe.

And Jason was great! I got there early enough to hear him do an interview with the camera crew, and then do a snippet of a new song – and I really liked what I heard, so I knew it was going to be a good night! The showcase was outdoors, and the sun was setting, and it was a good crowd for the size of the space – in other words a perfect summer night in LA! There were exactly eight fans – I had a fun conversation with one of them, and she said they all knew each other from recent concerts. It’s always cool when a few real fans get into an event like this – their enthusiasm is contagious and it makes it more fun for everyone!

Jason started the show with the same song I’d heard him do a few bars of during his interview, and he said he had just finished tracking it in the studio last night – and so this was the first time he’d performed it in public – and it was definitely my favorite song of the night. It was earnest and sweet and poppy – and fun! I told him after the show that I thought his personality and his music were a perfect match. Only a truly winsome artist could get away with singing songs that sweet and carefree – and Jason is as winsome as they come. He’s totally enchanting in person!

The rest of his short set was good too – but that first song was my favorite – wish I could remember the name of it?! Funnily enough, my least favorite song of the evening was the one that he’s the most well-known for – he mentioned he’d done it on American Idol, but since I don’t watch the show, it was new to me – and it was fine – but his own material is just so much better.

After the show there was a moment before anyone had approached him, and his fans were hanging back, knowing that this was an industry showcase after all, so maybe they should wait a bit before rushing him. So it seemed like the perfect time to go over and tell Jason how much I loved the show. He’s just as charming up close, and I was chatting away when I suddenly realized that there was a camera trained on us – the same camera that had taped the entire performance and had recorded the interview earlier in the evening. It’s not like I didn’t know it was there – I was very aware of it for most of the night – but for some reason in my head, when the show ended, the camera went off too – right? Wrong…

I have no idea why I worry about getting caught being enthusiastic and passionate on camera? Why would I worry about getting caught being myself, at my most pure? It really is a mystery! But I have to admit, I’m secretly making a wish, for that the footage to never ever ever ever surface…

And finally I should mention how great the sound was! The SLS isn’t just good at funky modern decor and really fun food – they’re also really good at making an acoustic artist sound great!

Sneak Peak!

Tracii Guns // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsLeague of Gentlemen // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Last weekend I got to see a brand new band on the first night of a new tour – Tracii Guns’ League of Gentlemen at the 710 Beach Club, in Pacific Beach – and it was a fun show! Some familiar music, and some unfamiliar, and some familiar music done in an unfamiliar way. If you get a chance to see them, wait until you hear one of L.A. Guns’ biggest hits done in a totally new way – it’s worth going, just for that one song!

I’ll have more images from this show later in the week…

L.A. Guns at House of Blues on Sunset

Some people think that a photographer just shoots what is. If there’s beautiful stuff in front of you, just click the shutter, and voilà! Instant art! But it’s not quite that simple. Yes, if there’s beautiful stuff in front of you, you’re halfway there, but the artist still has to chose where to point the camera, and what moment to capture – as well as a myriad of other more technical choices. With every shot, that artist is telling his own story and showing you his vision. And no two photographers, if presented with the same beautiful subject, will come up with the same way of presenting it. And honestly, even the same photographer on different days, will make different choices. That’s art!

I shot LA Guns last week at the House of Blues on Sunset, which is a great venue, with nice light – my favorite kind of place. And they sounded great and looked great – it was just the best of LA Guns, in every way. So a perfect night to shoot. And lucky for me, I came to that show so wiped out and exhausted I could hardly see straight. Lucky? Yeah lucky. Because shooting a concert is like crack to me – so of course I’m going to rise to the occasion. And of course how I’m feeling is going to shape what I see, and how I shoot – and that’s a good thing!

Earthy, sensual, and wild are how I’d describe my images from that night. I usually go for the extreme, but that night I was attracted to the moments in between – the moments when you take a breath. Not necessarily the moments when the musicians take a breath, but more the moments where you, the viewer take a breath. So go ahead, just breathe… and enjoy!

Marty Casey/ Photo: Cheryl Spelts

LA Guns // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

To see the slideshow from that night, go to:

And remember to maximize your browser window – the images are large, and deserve to be seen that way!

There’s a discussion thread at RBL, too!

Michael McDermott

Almost a year ago I went to Chicago with a bunch of friends. We stayed at the Hotel Sax in a really beautiful room, saw the Lovehammers play next door at the House of Blues, went to the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade the next morning and saw the river turn green for the holiday, and went to some really great Chicago restaurants. And on the last night we went to a little bar called Schuba’s, to see a musician one of my friends had been raving about. His name was Michael McDermott and he was great! In fact, I enjoyed him and his band so much I spent more time watching than shooting, but I did get a few images that I thought were worth sharing…

Michael McDermott // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Michael McDermott // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsHeather Horton // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Bang Tango at the Key Club

To take my mind off the snow which is getting deeper and deeper outside, I thought I’d post a few images from last summer that have never been seen before…

The LA Guns/Faster Pussycat/Bang Tango tour came to the Key Club in West Hollywood last August, and while my main focus was on shooting LA Guns, I did get a few shots of Bang Tango and two of the opening bands. The Dogs Divine are from Chicago and Stolen Hearts is a local Los Angles band.

Bang Tango at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Bang Tango at the Key Club

Bang Tango at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Bang Tango

Bang Tango at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Bang Tango

Bang Tango at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Bang Tango

Bang Tango at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Bang Tango

The Dogs Divine at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
The Dogs Divine

The Dogs Divine at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
The Dogs Divine

Stolen Hearts at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Stolen Hearts

Stolen Hearts at the Key Club // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Stolen Hearts

And if you want to see the rest of the show, go watch my slideshow of LA Guns at RBL. It’s definitely the best of the best, and my favorite part of the night!